History, traditions

Russia and America, the quiet detente Part 5

Before I go into the tour method of meeting a Russian girl, we need to talk about perceptions.

During, and just after, World War Two, there were some political events which did not help us any. There were some German scientists who rightfully should have faced judgment at Nuremburg but who were happily sitting in the US, compliments of the US government.  Something we could not comfortably explain to our counterparts at Nuremberg.

Herman Goering getting his hands on a cyanide capsule through the help of an American Army officer caused a major flap.  Yes, the chief of the Nazi Luftwaffe was dead – but we had agreed it was going to happen via a rope. 

The first atomic bomb – the Hiroshima bomb, did not boost confidence in the United States because Hiroshima was civilian.

The second atomic blast, the Nagasaki bomb, was viewed as wholly, and completely, unacceptable and unpardonable.  The US was labeled as barbarians, and nobody will ever forget about those two bombs.  We also get this rubbed in our faces allot. When Russia tested its first atomic bomb, we openly accused them of starting the arms race.  We took an attitude of we can have the bomb, but nobody else can which earned us a very big "Go To Hell".

Then, our tourists had this attitude of “You should worship the ground we walk on”.  That attitude got us thrown out of France.  In the late 50’s and early 60’s the operative phrase was “Yankee go home”.

In the 1960’s the Soviet Union armed Cuba with long range missiles.  The US took a rather nasty exception to that.  The part we did not hear about is that the US had Jupiter Missiles in Turkey pointed straight at Moscow’s under belly.  Arming Cuba, from that perspective, made perfect sense to the Russians.  What our actions told Russia was that it was alright for the US to have strategic weapons in close proximity to Russia, but is was not alright to put them at our throats.  Unequal balance does not go over very big in anybody’s book.

All their lives, Russians have been told we are the ‘evil empire’. They know who was arming the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, the group that was killing their sons.  We know them as the Taliban, and Bin Laden – our troops are now getting killed by the very weapons we supplied the Mujahadeen with to kill Russians.  A bit of sardonic irony.

There is a segment of Russia that sees the US as the one who bankrupted their economy.  They know nothing of the financial excesses of Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Andropov.  But they certainly understand the words “Star Wars Technology” and a worried Gorbachev who sent his scientists to develop a means to defend Russia against something we said we had, but never described.  We left it all up to vivid imaginations in Russia as to what we were talking about. 

Yes, we did have a hand in tipping the scales of an economy that was bankrupt from the onset of the October revolution – but, many Russians do not see it that way.  Especially when they are the ones who have to live within the impoverished country that is flat out broke.

There are other incidents, but the point is, the perception people have in Europe about Americans is not all that favorable.  They are nice to our faces, in most cases, but behind our backs it is another story.

Whether or not you want to believe this, when you go to Europe, you are acting as a representative of the average American citizen.  All our best and none of our faults.

 The words “Please” and “Thank you” are universally understood.  The voice intonation, then smile and the words all put together cannot be mistaken.

 Respect is another thing that will go along way.  Whether you are talking with the police, or the average citizen – remember, respect.  Elvis called everyone Sir or Ma’am – whether they were older than him or younger than him.  Word to the wise. 

 The more polite you are the better things will be.  When I was going through customs in Moscow, I played fat, dumb, and polite.  I was behind some people who were playing big time macho Americans.  The Russian customs were in the process of checking every square inch of their bags.  The more arrogant the US people got, the Russians got worse.  When I last saw, the Russian police were now bringing in the dope sniffing dogs and in the background I could hear the scream “You can’t do this, I am an American”.  Conversely, I went up to two military people in customs, and I started off with: “Excuse me Sir, but which line should I be in. I only have one bag and $600.00”.  He led me into the room where the screaming Americans were, told me to hand him my papers, he took a light look, and flagged me through.

 There are beggars working the streets and you can tell the professionals from the truly humbled people in bad need.  One family group came up to me begging – they were dressed in brand new, American name brand clothing, and they were asking me for money?  If I had their money, I would have thrown mine away. 

 On the other hand, there are people who are truly desperate and totally humiliated by begging.  Be kind to those people.  If you give them even $5.00 (American), you have given them enough money to eat for two weeks.  A guy hint, the girl will see that you have compassion for your fellow human being and willing to lend a hand. Be very discreet so the person is not further humiliated – let them have some sort of dignity, and that goes a very, very long way in the girl’s mind. 

Don’t press for a thank you either – you may get thanks, or you may only get direct eye contact and silence.

When you visit a Russian household, if you are respectful, they are quick to make you feel at home – a welcomed guest.  Children are curious about Americans and I can’t begin to tell you all the questions they will ask through an interrupter.  The older Russians may take a few minutes warming up to you, but once the ice is broken – you have friends who will go out of their way to make your stay the best it can be.  The last vestige of American southern hospitality is very much alive in Russia today.  Heck, one family I visited lent me a driver and a car for my stay – I did not have to pay for any taxis. 

 Don’t run down Russia and brag up America – do this and you’ve made enemies.  Be interested in their life, their town, and their country.  Be interested in their ways.

 If you are offered Vodka – go easy on that stuff.  You will be drinking the real thing and not this watered down American version.  You’ve all heard of Everclear here in the US – the drink that is about 90% alcohol?  That is still a tad weak when it is pitted against real Russian vodka. 

 When you are touring a Russian city, the citizenry can spot an American from a mile away and conduct your behavior accordingly. Being a gentleman is a major point in your favor – one Russian girl who had taken a job with the US embassy wrote that she was absolutely swept off her feet when an American held an umbrella over her head during a rain storm.  Helping a little old lady or an old man will get you undying respect and gratitude.  Think about the chivalry of the knights of old and adopt that as your role model.  Russians talk – trust me on that, and if you leave a lasting positive impression, you will have done more for US and Russian relations than you realize. 

Russian girls talk also – they have their message boards on Russian ISPs.  Bad news travels very fast.  If your behavior stinks, you become a marked man.  You will make it onto their black list – and from there, don’t even attempt anymore contact with Russian girls.  You’re dead in the water. 

 Do not assume you are going to get “lucky”.  A woman’s passions have a direct link to their brain.  Use the point system – everything you can do to add brownie points on your side will work for you.  That is not to say you have to walk on egg shells, but be your self, be truthful, and be a shining knight.

Men look, women inspect – always remember that.  How you act in public, how you act towards other people and your demeanor are being evaluated every step of the way.  You are in Russia to find a Russian bride, and she has to know you before she can put her trust in you and leave everything she has ever known.  You will be under a very large microscope until she relaxes.  You give her every reason to relax. 

This girl and I were walking through Moscow and one street merchant was selling some puppies, a kitten and a bunny rabbit.  Me, I am a sucker for animals and I just had to stop and play with them.  The girl laughingly called me a child, but she watched very closely how I handled the animals and how I played with them.  She was probably thinking, if he’s that kind to critters, he can’t be all that bad.   It’s about the little things that matter most.

 I could go on and on – but the point is be yourself, be a shining knight, and be what an American is supposed to be.

 Michael Berglin

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